Race Rundown: Windermere Marathon, 23rd May 2021

This race had been a long time coming, as I had entered Manchester Marathon in 2020 but we all know what happened there… fast forward a year and the appetite to want to run the marathon distance was still there.  With all the large races cancelled or likely to be with Covid restrictions I looked to see if there were any smaller races.  Windermere marathon seemed ideal, well except maybe for those hills, this is what the blurb says:

The Windermere Marathon has a reputation as one of the most challenging road marathons in the UK. Categorised by Runner’s World as ‘undulating’

I started out this training block hoping I’d get past the 12 week mark and thankfully about a month before the race they sent out the confirmation that the race would be happening, albeit under covid restrictions, numbers for the race were limited to 800 (~555 people ran on the day), there would be staggered starts and runners were encouraged to be more self sufficient with hydration and nutrition with fewer stations around the route.  It also meant no spectators or events put on at Brathay Hall which normally happen for the waiting family and Friends

The race starts and finishes at Brathay Hall and follows an anti-clockwise route, passing through Hawkshead, Newby Bridge, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside.

I’d booked a start time of 8:45 and instructions were to not to turn up until ~15 minutes before the start time to get through registration.  Getting in and parked, and through to the start line was very easy, and one bonus of these staggered starts is no queues for the toilets!  It was all very relaxed at the start line, and although they said we’d go off in groups of 40, in reality once at the start line you could start when you were ready.  Certainly a lot less stressful this way, but a little underwhelming way to start!

The course lived up to the billing as ‘undulating’ right from the start but more rolling ups and down to ease us in and get the legs warmed up.  In the first half of the race I did have to contend with the rain – heavy downpours with some hail thrown in for good measure.  The showers would be spread out enough just enough to dry off and then get soaked again.

The big climb of the course came at mile 7 –known as the devil’s gallop, 200ft over half a mile, and keeping my sensible head on, took the approach of walk the steep parts and save those legs – a long way to go yet!

Luckily the next 4 or so miles were gradually downhill so a slight rest for the legs.  Simon and Chloe were waiting for me at Newby Bridge so time for a quick hug and words of encouragement and then time to head back up the lake.

There is usually a time during a race that I question why I do these things for ‘fun’ and the road back up towards Bowness-on-Windermere was certainly it, I can only describe it as a rollercoaster of hills – they just kept coming and even the downs weren’t that fun!

Once through Bowness-on-Windermere and the road levelled out. At this point I was also entering unchartered territory, having never run further than 21 miles before.  Fortunately the wall was never hit!  Coming up to around mile 24, I noticed a couple of spectators that looked familiar – Beth and Mark!  Gave me a great boost to see you cheering – thanks guys!

There was another quick hug from Chloe in Ambleside and then time for the last push back up to Brathay Hall.  By this time the legs were complaining quite loudly at any slight incline, bad news then that the finish was uphill – that’s just cruel!  However, as the 26 mile marker ticked by I was so so happy that I was going to make it and crossing the finish line in just over 4 hours and 21 minutes was an amazing feeling!

By Fay Uphill.

Race Rundown: Hardmoors Saltburn Trail Half Marathon, 9th February 2020

Saltburn is the first race in the 26.2 series, which take place over the year.   I’d been looking forward to giving these races a go after reading so much about it on the facebook page….one small problem….storm Ciara!  A lot of looking at different weather forecast pages in the days before in the hope that the wind and rain would somehow miss the north east, however no such luck.  I was asked by a few people whether the race would be cancelled, I knew that wouldn’t be happening as this is Hardmoors!  The philosophy seems to be the worse the conditions the better the race.

We had heard before that there had to be some changes made to the route which would mean we wouldn’t be on the cliffs for as much of it.  It did mean we had lost some of the bonus Hardmoor miles – the races are always at least a couple of miles longer than the stated 13.1,  however I certainly wasn’t feeling short changed knowing the weather we would have to be running in.

Rosie and I travelled together to Saltburn and we met up with Nicky and Stuart when we arrived.  We picked up our numbers and checked out the new route and stayed inside in the warm for as long as we could before the race started.

We were ushered out onto the road by the leisure centre just before 10am and after a quick countdown we were off.  The first part of the route was through the Valley Gardens down to the sea front.  Then there was the first of the hills up on to the top of the cliffs.  Once at the top this was where we took the detour inland and there was a quite a long gradual uphill.  I was beginning to think ‘oh my god, what have I got into!’ The horizontal rain and wind was making it tough going.

Due to the changes in route we got to go up Warsett Hill (Yay!  So kind to add that in), a very steep incline where there was no chance of doing anything other than walk.  One bonus of the walking up hills is it does give you a chance to have a jelly baby or two.  What goes up must come down and heading down the other side was pretty exhilarating having the wind on your back (got to make the most of it while you can)

There was a section where we were right on the cliff edge which was a little hairy and then we headed down on to a beach just before Skinningrove.  This was the one point of the race where we were out of the wind.  It was a short lived respite and we were quickly back into the wind and rain and a steep upward incline.

At about 6 miles in and more soggy hills I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself and had one foot on the struggle bus.  By the time we reached the top I told Rosie to go on but got a ‘don’t be daft’ in reply and on we carried (thanks Rosie!).  As we moved inland the weather did seem to ease up – certainly on the rain front, and in turn the miles went by a little easier.

We’d been told that this was one of the most urban Hardmoors and the second half of the race went through some of the villages/towns along the coast.  Not the most scenic part but it was a little easier going under foot!  Before we got back into Saltburn there were more soggy fields, feeling like you were going backwards in the winds and oh, more hills but the miles ticked by and we then saw the welcome sight of Saltburn.  We came back into the top end of the Valley Gardens and weren’t sure exactly how far we had left, but once we reappeared on to the road where we had begun the race on we knew the end was in sight.  It was a little bit of an anti-climax after battling round for over 2 ½ hours…there was no finish line to cross, just a walk up the steps into the leisure centre hall and someone reading out your race number.  Never mind, we had finished!! Really tough going and I can’t say ‘I loved it’ like Nicky did but a definite sense of achievement having battled the elements and survived!

After picking up our medal and T-shirt we could get a hot cup of tea and cake and got to catch up with Emma and Ellen who had completed the ‘10K’ (~7.5 miles) race – much more sensible in those conditions! There was also an added bonus of being at a leisure centre – hot showers!

We won’t have that luxury at the next race – Wainstones in May, but let’s hope the weather is a lot kinder and that won’t matter!

By Fay Uphill

Results: https://www.hardmoors110.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Saltburn-Half-Marathon-2020-results-1.pdf

Race Rundown: Chippenham Half Marathon, 8th September 2019

I decided this year to take on a slightly quieter road half marathon, rather than enter the ballot again for the GNR.  On a trip home to visit the parents, chat turned to running and the Chippenham half marathon was mentioned. As it passed the front door of the house I grew up in for 18 years and I knew this was one race that Simon and Chloe might actually get to see me run past, I decided it would be one to target.

The race is organised by Chippenham Harriers (whose club vest bears a very close resemblance to the Sedgefield one – even more so than South Shields!) and is billed as a fast and predominantly flat course through Chippenham and local villages and hamlets.

The race village was set up at Chippenham sports club, and everything was well organised – no queue for the bag drop off and plenty of portaloos, so only a short wait in line there!

Race start was 9:30am and just over 1300 runners toed the line.  After a few words from the race director we were off and the first mile or so was through the town centre on closed roads. There were a good number of people out supporting which always gets you off to a good start (and probably a little too quick on my part, will I ever learn?).

Following this stretch the race headed out to the surrounding villages and along the country lanes. The roads weren’t closed for this section so every now and again you’d get a shout of ‘car’ and people would move over to the left to let them pass.  It was also at this point that I heard a shout of Sedgefield, as in Durham?  I shouted a Yes over my shoulder, which was returned by a ‘blimey, that’s a distance’. Probably a bit of a surprise to see someone from the other end of the country racing and also a surprise for me to see someone in Chippenham that knows where Sedgefield is!  I did also get a few shouts along the way of ‘well done Chippenham’ followed by an ‘oh, what club is that?’ and a quizzical look my way.

For the first 6-7 miles I was feeling good, and I was enjoying running on the lanes that I had cycled round on rides as a kid.  The sun was out and it was getting warm, so the water stations were a welcome sight. The organisers tried to be as eco-friendly as possible so no plastic bottles, instead, bio-degradable water spheres, made using a seaweed coating.  I found they were easy to use and really good for a quick re-hydrate.

At mile 8 there was a ‘smile and wave’ photo opportunity. Even with a sign up to warn runners that photos would be taken I still managed to get captured looking less than my best – is there ever a good running photo?!  This was also about the point that my pace began to slow a little, not too much but each mile a little slower than the last.  We’d then also reached the start of a couple of miles of incline, no hills as such, just enough to really test the legs at the back end of a half marathon.

At around mile 11 it was back into Chippenham and onto closed roads again. It was also the part that I knew was going to give me a boost, running down the road I grew up on and it was great to be able to wave and say hello to Simon, Chloe and Mum as I passed.  Then it was head down and concentrating on trying to keep the legs moving as fast as I could to the finish.  After one last small incline the last half mile was all downhill which was a great way to finish, although the finish line was a bit further round on the sports club field than I’d first hoped – that ‘sprint’ finish had to keep going a bit longer than anticipated!

At the beginning of the year I’d set myself some running goals. One of them was to get as close to 1hr50 for my half marathon time as possible, and although initially a little disappointed with myself that I had only managed 1:53:52 I had a quick word with myself that I should be more positive and I was soon happy that I had achieved a 6 minute PB!  Although, I still have that 1:50 mark in my sight…

I know this is one race that will not likely be on many Harriers’ race calendars, but if you do happen to be in Wiltshire at the beginning of September then this is an enjoyable race to do.

By Fay Uphill

Results: https://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results/Chippenham%20Half%20Marathon/4177

Race Rundown: Wynyard Hall Trail 10k, 29th May 2019

(Chief marshal Ray)

When I signed up for this I thought it would be a nice way to spend a sunny spring evening running round the grounds of Wynyard Hall. Being a few days after my Edinburgh 10K race I had every intention of taking it easy…

Rosie kindly offered to drive so we set off and got there with plenty of time to spare. We joined the short queue to pick up our barcode and goody bag (running socks, packet of crisps, mars bar and water) When I told the marshall my name I got the reply ‘Uphill, there are a few of those, haha!’ .Never heard that before!!

We decided the best way to ‘warm up’ was to sit in the car staying dry but as 7pm neared we headed out to the start and had a quick catch up with most of the other Harriers racing.

Rosie also had the same idea of taking it easy, her aim to run steady and have a chat all the way round. I was thinking that Rosie’s easy pace varied quite a bit from mine, but that we’d see how it went!

After a quick run through of the route from the race director: Starting out from the field at the end of the grand marquee car park heading through a gate and then out and round farm land before heading down into the woods. We’d then head back up uphill to start a second lap, the only difference on the second lap would be that we would go right out of the woods and along towards the lake and Wynyard hall.  After an out and back we would snake up the hill and then a short loop around the woodland walk and we would finish back on the grass next to where we started.

After that we were off, and it was good to start to warm up on a chilly evening. There was conversation to begin with including discussing what races are good for a fast, flat 10K  (any recommendations?) but after the inevitable going off too quick (for me, not Rosie) happened, my side of the conversation dried up somewhat.  Luckily for Rosie about a quarter of the way into the first lap, Pete caught us up and after telling us he was taking it steady ahead of the parkrunathon he would be doing on Saturday he seemed happy to stick with us and provide better conversation than I could offer!

What goes down must invariably go up, and so it was towards the end of the first lap that we hit the hill. Repeating ‘I love this hill’ in my head and thinking of Tuesday night training sessions I managed a steady pace, and how kind of a photographer to be positioned at the top – think I managed a smile!  A quick drink of water at the start of the second lap and then we were off and round again, the route itself was a good mix of terrain and was a nice chance to see the woodland and surrounding areas around Wynyard Hall.

By the time we had got to the section by the lake the conversation had turned to bad jokes (why don’t elephants like penguins…because they can’t undo the wrapper) and what we thought of compression running socks; it really was high brow stuff!  Once we made our way up the hill the end was near. After a time check from Pete saying we would be close to 51 minutes it was time to dig in and hold on for a final push across to the finish.  More effort than I was intending on putting in and it wasn’t the take it steady run I had planned but hey, you’ve got to push yourself a little, right? I think the course may have been a bit under 10K so not sure I can claim it as a PB but I was very happy with a time of 50:18, I have that sub-50 min 10K in my sights!

Thanks to Rosie and Pete for pulling me round, I know I didn’t add much to the conversation but your company certainly helped!

Results: http://trailraces.co.uk/results.php?event=25

By Fay Uphill.

Great photos provided by Nat Snell (Flickr)


Race Rundown: Great North Run – 9th September 2018

This race doesn’t need much of an introduction, with it being perhaps one of the most iconic half marathon races in the world. Being a fairly novice runner I wanted to set myself a challenge and with the race pretty much on the doorstep I thought why not enter the ballot?! Training in earnest started in June and I gradually built up the miles through the weeks. Then came race day – my first attempt at 13.1 miles! I think I was more nervous in the morning about getting to the start line having read a lot about busy metro lines but in the end it all went smoothly and I even had time to meet up with friends from work who were also racing.

After that, it was time to go to the start along with approximately 43,000 other people, unfortunately I didn’t see any of the other 21 Harriers who were also racing. It is quite an experience to be lined up with that many people and to know I was in the same race as Mo Farah!

I crossed the start line 12 minutes after the gun went off, I thought it was going to be busy at the start but we were all pretty well spread out. I went off too fast (definitely need to work on my race pacing) but as I got down towards the Tyne bridge I tried to settle into it, however that proved tricky with so many people on the road. This wasn’t helped by people starting to walk at around 3 miles, if you’re doing a half marathon do some training!

By mile 7, the legs were starting to complain, time to dig in, and focus, however easier said than done with everything going on and the heat. Had to make use of all the water stations and the showers and by mile 10 I was beginning to slow, the long drag uphill really does take it out of you. It was quite a relief when it levelled out. Then there was the short downhill to the sea front, round the corner and then the end was finally in sight, but that last stretch, it felt so far. I never thought the finish line would come but getting closer I took one final look at my watch, saw there was a chance to still get under 2 hours and just went as fast as I could (admittedly not that fast at the end of 13 miles) but crossed the line exhausted in 1:59:47. I’d done it, first half marathon completed and really pleased to meet my goal of sub 2 hours, even if it was only by 13 seconds!

I am glad I can tick the Great North Run off the list, but I won’t be entering the ballot this year – too many people and the logistics of trying to find the family afterwards and getting home put a bit of a dampener on the day. However, it certainly gave me the bug for running, I’m hooked now!

By Fay Uphill

Link to results: https://www.greatrun.org/myresults